On July 9, Health Canada announced that they would begin selling marijuana to the 582 patients who have qualified for exemptions. However, many patients and cannabis advocates doubted that any marijuana would ever actually be made available, and many doctors also opposed the government’s plan.
Ontario courts had ordered the government to share their stash of federally-grown herb back in January, with a six-month deadline to comply or the whole marijuana law would be struck down. The feds waited until the very last day possible to announce that they would make the buds available, and Health Minster anne McClellan made it clear that she was only doing this because she was forced to.
“There have been no studies anywhere in the world that have been able to confirm medicinal benefit,” said McClellan, ignoring hundreds of studies into the therapeutic benefits of raw cannabis and extracted cannabinoids. McClellan added that the government was appealing the court decision, and that the distribution program would be stopped as soon as legally possible.
Health Canada claims to have 1650 pouches of marijuana already packed and ready for sale to patients. The marijuana will be sold for a flat rate of $5 per gram, which comes to $140 per ounce. The street cost of pot in Canada ranges from about $200 to $250 per ounce.
The government also says they will sell marijuana seeds at a cost of $20 for a bag of 30. It is unlikely that the feds will be able to provide any details as to what strains of seeds they are providing.
The marijuana and seeds would be made available to doctors, who would then sell it to their patients who have qualified for exemptions. Although there is only 582 exemptees so far, there are thousands more who are in the lengthy process of making an application.
Doctors against cannabis
The Canadian Medical Association is opposed to medical marijuana, and is advising doctors not to dispense the herb. Many doctors quoted in the media agreed that they would not provide marijuana to their patients.
“Do I want to be a drug dealer? No. I have absolutely no interest in distributing pot. I’ll have people breaking into my clinic,” said one typical Ontario doctor quoted in the media.
A Health Canada spokesperson said that the cannabis would only be provided to doctors who support medical use of marijuana and have a patient who has an exemption.
To get an exemption for medical marijuana use, a person applies to a doctor, who must certify the drug is beneficial to the patient. The doctor signs a form, including a controversial section that says the doctor agrees “the benefits to the applicant from the recommended use of marijuana would outweigh any risks associated with that use.”
Some doctors worry that this section could expose them to lawsuits if a patients suffered adverse affects from their cannabis use.
Other doctors exposed their ignorance of cannabis in their comments against it. Dr Bill Pope, registrar of Manitoba’s College of Physicians and Surgeons told the media that “You’re taking a leaf, crumpling it up, and smoking it,” apparently unaware that it is cannabis buds, not leaves, which are consumed.
Only a few doctors were willing to contradict the stance of the government and the Canadian Medical Association. One was Dr Paul Conyette, a family physician at a naturopathic clinic in Brandon, Manitoba.
“I think it’s interesting that so many clinical trials are necessary before a prescription can be signed for medicinal marijuana, because there are many drugs that are being used that have never passed double-blind placebo controlled studies,” Conyette told the Brandon Sun. “Why would medicinal marijuana be singled out, when 80 per cent of many hospital procedures have never been studied with double-blind, placebo controlled tests?”
The Canadian Medical Association claims that they oppose medical marijuana because the herb has not gone through adequate clinical trials. This claim is echoed by Anne McClellan, Minister of Health.
“We’re not convinced in terms of the medicinal benefits,” said McClennan, “which is why we are supporting clinical trials.”
Yet in June, Health Canada cancelled funding for some of the nation’s first official clinical trials of raw cannabis, which were to be run by the Community Research Initiatives of Toronto. With the sudden cut of promised federal support, the organization has essentially shut down.
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, chair of a Senate committee that called for pot to be legalized for anyone over 16, was highly critical of the way Health Canada is dealing with the medical marijuana issue.”You can smell the bad faith of the government,” Nolin told the media.
Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery has decided to go one better on the government’s offer to sell seeds to legal med-pot patients. Emery has announced that he will provide 30 free seeds from his collection to any med-pot patient who sends him a photocopy of their official Health Canada exemption.
“The seeds Health Canada is selling come from plants grown from my seeds anyway” says Emery, referring to the fact that the government’s grow-op in Flin-Flon, Manitoba, used seeds seized by police in raids on Emery and other seed merchants. “So I thought we should just cut out the middle-men, and I would provide seeds to legal exemptees at no cost.”
With the government’s history of stalling and lying about medical cannabis, we can expect that it will likely be some time before the feds actually make good on their promise to share their stash with some of Canada’s most sick and vulnerable citizens.
* Marc Emery free seeds offer on Pot-TV: www.pot-tv.net/archive/shows/pottvshowse-2063.html
* Globe & Mail: MDs Will Dispense Marijuana
* Edmonton Sun: Special Delivery! Feds to Begin Mailing Marijuana
* Health Canada’s medical marijuana FAQ: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/protection/marijuana.html
* Health Canada’s background information on medical marijuana: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/media/issues/marijuana.html